BY ANNETTE BROOKS
The holiday season is a magical time, and Texas’ fun-filled holiday train rides are a great way to spread cheer and create lifetime memories. We’ve chosen three of the Lone Star State’s most popular Christmas rail excursions for you to consider — the North Pole Flyer in Bertram, The Polar Express in Palestine, the North Pole Express in Grapevine. Be sure to reserve your tickets early. Seats fill up quickly.
Plan to have lunch or dinner at one of the local restaurants in these quaint towns. Remember to give yourself extra time to explore all the unique shops and boutiques for one-of-a-kind holiday gifts. There’s something for everyone, even for the person on your gift list who
The Polar Express
Departs from Palestine, Texas
Dates from November 19, 2021, to December 26, 2021
The Texas State Railroad brings the wonder and excitement of classic children’s Christmas story — The Polar Express — to life. Adapted to the big screen in 2003, the motion picture soundtrack sets the mood on board. Once the train departs the station, adults and kids enjoy hot chocolate and cookies served by dancing Cocoa chefs reciting the book. When the train arrives at the “North Pole,” Santa and his merry elves come aboard to hand out a gift and spread the joy of the season.
All cars have large viewing windows. Seating includes the Dome Class, which has wonderful views from the upper deck dome windows and includes a keepsake cocoa mug. Other options are Presidential Class, First Class, and Coach Class with Pullman-style seating.
Visit TexasStateRailroad.net/polarexpress for more information and to reserve tickets.
Tip: Purchase a gift-wrapped copy of The Polar Express when you make your reservations so children can read along with the narrators during the train ride.
North Pole Flyer
Departs from Bertram, Texas
Dates from November 27, 2021, to December 12, 2021
It’s always a treat to get away to the Texas Hill Country, and Christmastime is no exception. Bertram, located about 10 miles east of Burnet and 45 minutes from Austin, offers an ideal opportunity for adults and children alike to get into the holiday spirit riding the North Pole Flyer.
The two-hour ride aboard the train cars pulled by the Austin Steam Train Association’s stunning blue diesel engine departs from the historic Bertram Depot. Passengers may choose their train car when they reserve tickets, but the North Pole Flyer train team assigns seats within the car.
The excitement mounts as Santa and his elf walk through each car, handing out a special gift and talking briefly with everyone. Passengers will enjoy cookies and hot chocolate, and kids receive a coloring sheet and crayons. Everyone is encouraged to read along to the story of the North Pole Flyer told by the storyteller elf. Copies of the book can be purchased for $10.
Visit AustinSteamTrain.org/special-events/north-pole-flyer for more information and to reserve tickets.
Tip: Most of the holiday magic occurs in the main lounge area. If you book a Private Compartment ticket, you’ll miss out on the reading of the North Pole Flyer story.
North Pole Express
Departs from the Cotton Belt Depot in Grapevine
Dates from November 26, 2021, to December 23, 2021
Grapevine Vintage Railroad welcomes everyone to wear their pajamas and board the North Pole Express with Mrs. Claus hosting the 45 to 50-minute ride to bring Santa to the Christmas Capital of Texas. Riders enjoy cookies, Santa’s Frosty Chocolate Snow Milk served in a keepsake mug and a special gift.
Tickets are available for the First-Class Coach and Touring Class. All coaches are equipped with bench-style seating, designed to accommodate two guests.
Visit GVRR.com to reserve tickets and for more information.
Tip: Stroll through the Snowy Christmas Village Forest at the “North Pole” for photo ops and a keepsake photo with Santa.
Can’t fit the North Pole Express into your busy holiday schedule? Enjoy the After-Christmas Trains that run from December 26, 2021, to December 30, 2021. All coaches remain adorned with holiday decorations and run daily, departing from Grapevine at 12:50 PM and going to Stockyards Station in Fort Worth. Dine, shop, sightsee, or all three during the stopover in Fort Worth before the train returns to Grapevine.